May 2020 Census Project Update


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt regular order in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 appropriations process. Throughout May, members of the House and Senate deliberated how to proceed. At press time, leaders in the House and Senate had announced their intentions to consider or “mark up” FY 2021 appropriations bills in late June through early July. No word yet on when the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill, which funds the Census Bureau, will be considered within this time frame.  

Action on FY 2021 appropriations bills was sidelined in May while Congress considered COVID-19 response emergency supplemental funding measures. Most notably, on May 15, the House of Representatives, by a vote of 208-199, passed H.R. 6800, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act). The bill included $400 million to cover COVID-related delays in the 2020 Census and an additional $10 million for the Current Surveys and Programs account to offset other COVID-related expenses. The bill also included language authorizing the Administration’s request to extend the 2020 Census schedule and delay the publication of apportionment and state redistricting data by 120 days. At press time, it was not clear when the Senate would draft and consider its own version of the HEROES Act.

On May 18, The Census Project released a letter signed by 89 national, state, and local organizations, urging Congress to support funding the Census Bureau and 2020 Census operations in FY 2021 and COVID-related emergency supplemental funding bills. The letter, which was named Politico magazine’s May 18th “Top Doc,” requested that Congress provide contingency funding in the current fiscal year, and funding above the Administration’s request in FY 2021 to accommodate the COVID-19-driven changes to Census operations.

Meanwhile, on May 8, Sen. Brian Schatz (D) led 15 Senators in urging Senate leadership to provide “additional funding for the Census Bureau” to specifically “address the operational changes to the 2020 Census in response to the current public health crisis,” and outlined a series of specific purpose to which the funds would be allocated.

Legislative Update

On May 27, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced H.R. 7034, the Fair and Accurate Census Act. The bill would implement the Administration’s request to modify the statutorily required 2020 Census deadlines by 120 days due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the bill would require the Census Bureau to provide Congress with monthly operational and technological status reports and allow colleges and universities to provide necessary data to the Census Bureau—language similar to provisions in the HEROES Act. H.R. 7034 has been referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and House Committee on Education and Labor for further consideration. A similar measure has not yet been introduced in the Senate.

Census stakeholders have urged Congress to consider how the Census Bureau’s request to modify the statutory reporting deadlines for the 2020 Census will affect data quality, undercounted communities, and the ability of states to comply with the Voting Rights Act:

  • The National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) wrote to the House Oversight & Reform Committee on May 14 urging vigorous Congressional oversight and “meaningful consultation” between the Census Bureau and states about these concerns.
  • On May 5, The Leadership Conference and its Census Task Force Co-Chairs, NALEO Educational Fund and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC, sent a letter to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and House Committee on Oversight and Reform urging Congress to take several oversight actions as they consider the Bureau’s requested extension.
  • On May 12, the Census Counts campaign sent a letter to the leaders of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and House Committee on Oversight and Reform advocating for several operational enhancements needed to address disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter, signed by 143 organizations, recommended the Bureau take steps such as additional mailings, updating the communications campaign, and redesigning the Mobile Questionnaire Assistance operation, to ensure an accurate and fair 2020 Census.

A report from the Brennan Center for Justice also warned that any “delay in receiving census data will impact redistricting in most states” and may “require changes to deadlines and processes set by state law.”

Other Census Stakeholder Developments

While the COVID-19 crisis has led to historic delays in the 2020 Census, partners in the get-out-the-count operations are seeking improved Census Bureau transparency. Denice Ross of Georgetown University proposed several data streams that would be useful for the Bureau to provide that would help stakeholders get out the count.

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), Native American Rights Fund, and the National Urban Indian Family Coalition put out a flyer for safely counting native households, and NCAI also partnered with the Census Bureau on a how-to guide for virtual canvassing of Indian Country.

Census Bureau News

Throughout the month of May, the Census Bureau announced the resumption of various field operations (see below). Updated information about 2020 Census operational adjustments are on the Census Bureau home page. 

May 29, Resumption of Update Leave in additional areas

May 22, Resumption of Update Leave in additional areas

May 22, Resume Field Data Collection in Island Areas

May 15, Statement on 2020 Census Operations on Tribal Lands

May 15, Resumption of Update Leave in Puerto Rico

May 15, Resumption of Update Leave in Additional Locations

May 4, Resumption of Update Leave Operations

Other significant Bureau news in May addressed 2020 Census response rates, population trends in the U.S. South and West, and responses to the ongoing Household Pulse Survey.

May 27, Over 60 Percent of U.S. Households Have Responded to 2020 Census

May 21, Southern and Western Regions Experienced Rapid Growth This Decade

May 20, Household Pulse Survey Results Released

**REMINDER: Census Bureau advisory committee nominations due August 1**

As a reminder, through August 1, the Census Bureau is accepting nominations to fill three vacancies on its Census Scientific Advisory Committee (which was renewed on May 28) and eight vacancies on the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations.

Census Bureau Data Releases

May 28, Report on Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support Now Available

May 21, 2018 E-Stats Report: Measuring the Electronic Economy

May 19, Census Bureau Releases New Report on Housing Readiness for Aging Population

May 15, U.S. Census Bureau Releases Update to COVID-19 Interactive Data Hub

May 14,U.S. Census Bureau Releases Small Business Pulse Survey Results

May 11, Spending Per Pupil Increased for Sixth Consecutive Year

May 5, U.S. Census Bureau Releases New Veteran Employment Outcomes Statistics

News You Can Use

Below are several articles posted on The Census Project home page in May. For a complete listing, go to:

Chicago announces new efforts to boost Census participation
Associated Press
May 30, 2020

Pandemic shows need for Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders participation in census
ABC News
May 26, 2020

How The U.S. Census Bureau Worked With Amazon, Adobe, Facebook, Google For The 2020 Digital Census
May 26, 2020

Rural areas become focus for Census 2020 outreach
Crossroads Today
May 26, 2020

Rural areas, tribal lands hit hardest by census interruption
Associated Press

May 23, 2020

Census Bureau Seeks Industry Input on Cybersecurity Acquisitions Strategy for Next Decade
May 22, 2020

Coronavirus-Related Census Delays Could Affect California’s 2022 Primary Election
May 22, 2020

Trump Administration Sanctioned in 2020 Census Citizenship Case
Bloomberg Law
May 21, 2020

To Figure Out Who’s A Citizen, Trump Administration Is Using These Records
May 20, 2020

More Census Funding Needed to Handle COVID-19 Disruption, Congress Told
May 19, 2020

Latest pandemic spending bill grants IG protections, USPS funding, 2020 census extensions
Federal News Network
May 13, 2020

House relief bill would give census time and money – with strings attached
Roll Call
May 12, 2020

The pandemic may leave communities of color undercounted in the census — and cost them billions
May 12, 2020

Census is looking to track impact of coronavirus outbreak
Federal News Network
May 11, 2020

Advocates were mobilizing LGBTQ people everywhere for the 2020 census. Then the coronavirus pandemic erupted.
USA Today
May 10, 2020

2020 Census sees operational adjustments due to COVID-19
May 1, 2020